Three Common Scams to Look Out For When Buying a Car

Buying a car can be an expensive and stressful process. Car sellers may not be trusted to have your best interests at heart and you could be conned into spending more money than you need to. To minimise this risk, take extra steps to protect yourself– these are three common scams to look out for.


A car with low mileage is generally more valuable than one with high mileage so sellers sometimes reduce mileage to make their car more appealing to buyers, which is also known as clocking.

A traditional analogue odometer must be removed before it can be manually reset. This is usually easy to spot. Check if the retaining screws have been removed from the dashboard – there may be some damage to the screws or scratches in the paint around them.
Digital odometers can be very easily reset with the right software and it’s estimated that one in ten cars sold have had their digital odometers tampered with. To avoid this scam, you should compare the mileage on the odometer to the car’s service history and previous MOTs to make sure that it matches up and there isn’t a sudden drop.


Car ringing refers to stolen vehicles that are sold to unsuspecting buyers. A ‘ringer’ will often have its identification numbers replaced by those from a written-off car, therefore changing the car’s identity. If you buy one unintentionally, the car does not legally belong to you.

The Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) is on a small plate riveted under the bonnet and it is stamped on the car’s floorplan. Look for tampering around the riveted plates or evidence that the number has been ground away and replaced with another.
To avoid buying a ‘ringer’, check that the V5 registration document is genuine. It should have the DVLA watermark running through it and make sure the chassis and engine numbers on the document are consistent with the car you’re viewing.


Cloning is when a stolen car is given the identity of an identical, legitimate car. This scam may be difficult to spot as you’re essentially checking the legitimacy of a different vehicle. A cloned car is unlikely to come with a registration document but if you have suspicions that the document the seller has produced is a forgery, contact the DVLA to check its authenticity.

Before buying a car, perform a comprehensive vehicle check online and research more on common scams using a website such as HPI Limited. It will reveal whether the vehicle is stolen, written off or if the plates have been transferred. That way, you can be confident that you won’t be scammed when buying a car.

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